Quite frequently I look at tabloid (OK, downmarket) papers and wonder whether there isn’t a huge disconnect between the people who write them – and particularly the people who edit them – and the people who the previous group think are going to read them.
Take this example, where the deputy news editor on the Bolton Evening News chugged through YouTube in search of “local content” (mm-hmm) and came across some footage that some kids had shot of themselves chucking a bike onto some rail tracks.
Here’s what the news editor James Higgins told the site (or possibly told the BEN’s PR, it’s not clear:
“We are always trying to come up with new ways of letting our readers know what is going on in Bolton and this is a perfect example of thinking outside the box.
“We were also able to tie it in with our website with a link to the video which could be seen for several hours until it was withdrawn from YouTube by the youths later in the day.”
OK. Now, can you guess what the headline was on the story? No? Remember, this is approved by people for whom phrases like “thinking outside the box” come easily.
It was BIKE BOYS’ SICK PRANK.
To me, that’s an insulting headline – insulting to the reader. It assumes that the reader will agree that’s a “sick” prank and moreover it doesn’t give the reader any ownership of the story. It presents the verdict on the kids (being kids, if stupid ones). It’s demotic and pointless.
It’s interesting to contrast that with Roy Greenslade’s assertion that
regional and local journalism is just not good enough to retain readers let alone win new ones. I am not arguing that everything is worse than it was years ago in some entirely mythical golden age (though I’d be happy to debate that possibility too). What I mean is that newspapers have failed to raise their game in the face of competition from elsewhere.
Absolutely. You’d not find anywhere else where that YouTube video would attract the words “sick prank” (except where sick was used hyperbolically; climbers will call a route “sick hard”, as in hard++).
Headlines like that deserve to die. But it seems they are – people aren’t buying the papers that carry them. That sound you hear in the background is one hand applauding – I’m happy to see them go, but not if they’re replaced by ignorance and indifference to anything at all.